by: Matt Flegal [ ]
OverviewFor fairly obvious reasons, the Japanese military put a significant amount of time, thought, and effort into their development of amphibious forces prior to World War 2. After a series of paper designs and prototypes, the Navy began developing a production amphibious tank in 1940, the Type 2 Ka-Mi, which began production in 1942. Based on the Type 95 Ha-Go tank, this rather large box on treads was equipped with detachable fore and aft pontoons and arrived too late to make much use of its amphibious capabilities. They did see combat service in several locations in the Pacific, including the Marshall Islands, Guam, Leyte, and New Guinea as well as serving garrison duty in the East Indes and elsewhere.
182 tanks were built, all armed with a 37 mm gun in the turret and two Type 97 machine guns. They could also be armed with two torpedoes, one on either side of the hull. For amphibious use they were equipped with the two pontoons, held in place by clamps that could be released from inside the tank, as well as a conning tower and extended exhaust stack. Range was impressive, with the tank capable of sailing for up to 150 km at 10 km/hr. However, the tank was also complex to operate, requiring a crew of 6 with one a designated mechanic.
The kitDragon has released a 1/72 kit of the Ka-Mi in its combat configuration, which means no pontoons or other fittings for amphibious use. Consisting of 55 pieces, two runs of DS track, one piece of photo-etched grill, and a small decal sheet, Dragon has included an impressive amount of detail for a kit so small. Especially noteworthy is how much fine molded detail is molded into the larger pieces, I was impressed at how the towing shackles are molded on the hull pieces themselves, with complex curves and undercuts. There is virtually no flash on the parts and the detail is uniformly sharp and consistent. Of note is that the main sprue is a rather soft, rubbery plastic and this will potentially be a minor issue, it certainly was for my build. That said, on with the build!
The BuildTo start with, this is a pretty simple and quite well fitting kit and is a pretty quick build, I spent about 3 hours on it, not counting waiting for my Mr Surfacer to dry in the few seams that needed filling. The plastic for the hull shells and turret are harder than the rest of the plastic and require no special handling. They sand well and provide a solid framework to hang the rest of the model on. As mentioned before, the rest of the plastic is soft and somewhat rubbery and I learned through trial and error the following. A sharp blade is the way to go when removing parts from the sprue. My sprue cutters did not cut cleanly but instead crushed, distorted, and even tore the plastic when used. It wasnít awful or extensive but was noticeable. When I shifted to a blade it cut cleanly and had a better result. However, if the blade is at all dull bad things happen (to be revealed later. . .).
Step 1: As befits a kit of this size, the instructions consist of only 4 steps. Step one was the running gear and propellers. One thing that I appreciated very much with the roadwheel assemblies themselves is that they have a clever series of interlocking attachments, as do the idler wheels, so that proper alignment is quite easy. The sprocket does not and has a slightly asymmetrical notch for the parts to fit in. The problem is that even with Tamiya extra thin cement this area turns to goo very quickly, so alignment was done using the Mark 1 eyeball and wrapping the track around the teeth to lock it in place. The roadwheel assemblies have slightly oversized holes where they mount to the hull, so they float a bit. I lined them up by ďrollingĒ them back and forth on the tracks and left it sitting on the tracks to hold position. They do pop off quite easily (did it twice while fitting the tracks in step 4) so reinforcing the join with superglue at the hull attachment definitely helped. The propellers were fitted at the very end of my build because I just knew Iíd be knocking them off repeatedly. The attachment points on the propellers are pretty loose and minimal, so take some care to make sure they line up properly as they really want to droop.
Step 2: The turret is next and was where the build got a bit more challenging. Getting the antenna mounts off the sprue took some care, as the rubbery plastic really, really wants to deform when cut away. Also, remember when I said to use a sharp blade? You can see with the turret ring piece that when I used a slightly dull blade the ring deformed and actually tore. I put it back into shape but did have to cut away some pieces of the attachment ring so it would fit in the hole atop the hull. The hatch pieces donít quite fit properly to the top of the turret so there is a slight gap but nothing really noticeable, the detailing itself and how the 2 pieces interlock is very nice. The MG is lovely, frankly better than some Iíve seen on 1/35 kits [cough] Italeri P.40ís Breda [cough]. It fits perfectly through the hole in the mantlet. The main cannon is a beautiful molding and even has a hollowed-out end. It does float a little in the mounting but nothing too serious. However, the sprue gate on the top of the barrel is a bit awkward to remove and a Flexifile came in very handy. The antenna ring is a chore and had this not been a build review I would have junked it and replaced it with wire. It has small stubs of the mount that simply sit atop the corresponding ones on the turret roof. Because the plastic is so soft you can shape it as you wish BUT the plastic will start to break if you do this more than 1-2 times. I ended up supergluing it down one mount attachment by one mount attachment but under magnification it sill doesnít quite line up. I needed just a small amount of MR Surfacer 1000 to fill the gap atop the mantlet/turret join. As an aside, I was worried about using laquer thinner to smooth the Mr Surfacer as it tends to attack the plastic. I used 91% isopropyl alcohol (NOT 70% as that stuff doesnít work worth beans) and simply wiped away any excess and smoothed it at the same time.
Step 3: Here is where the hull halves are joined and the last hull parts attached. The join is very good all around with the exception of underneath the hull along the track runs. As that area is almost impossible to see I donít see that as a big deal. A thin bead of Mr Surfacer 1000 took care of the seams. There is no hole in the glacis for the hull MG so I did my standard "rotate a No. 11 blade and drill the hole out" technique. Donít do this! The rubbery plastic, you guessed it, tore instead. I caught it early and drilled a starter hole and then reamed it out with a circular micro-file. The sole photoetched brass piece fits over the muffler and has a somewhat flat profile. Rather than forming it around a rod I curved the sides by wrapping around a toothpick and then test fitting and pushing/pulling it into place with forceps. I glued it in place with Gator Glue to allow it some flexibility as well as the fact that this glue doesnít wick into the mesh like standard superglue. Check your references because the mesh does have an asymmetrical pattern and there is no guidance on which way to orient it.
Step 4: Attach the tracks. That's the whole step and the conclusion of the build process. The instruction is a little odd as it directs you to stretch the tracks until they are 137 mm long. Stretch them more. They will fit tightly at this length but as someone who remembers rubber band tracks from the 70ís there was dťjŗ vu at the way they deform and curve inwards at the drive sprocket. Be careful though, once stretched they donít snap back and cutting links off and butt jointing the tracks together would be less than fun. The tracks themselves glue together nicely and are well detailed but reproducing the characteristic tracks sag will be a challenge. I briefly contemplated digging back into my past and tying them down with black fishing line or sticking pins through the hull and then realized I wasnít that concerned about track sag. Your mileage may vary. . .
Miscellaneous: As usual, I saturated the model in Windex and rinsed it off with water to avoid knocking any parts loose. Tamiya Light Grey adhered well and the decals applied easily and didnít tear. Mind you, there arenít many of them but they do allow you to model a Saipan or Aitape tank of 1944.
ConclusionsThis kit was an easy build and aside from the minor difficulties of the rubbery plastic I have few complaints. The details are very nice, if somewhat oversized but to be fair if they were much smaller you wouldnít see them. My only real complaint is one I share with the 1/35 version; the pontoons and such should have been included, especially with the $20 price tag. I will say that it is a tiny kit and I donít think 1/72 will ever shake me from my focus on 1/35. That said, there is a lot to be said for a kit that can offer a pleasant start-to-finish session of 2-3 hours. Itís a great evening or weekend kit. Just stock up on fresh scalpel blades. . .